I was prepared to be blown by the whole experience. That, definitely did not happen. There are any number of films that I have seen, even in the recent past, that I would say are far better than Avatar. Having got that clear (and out of my system) let me say that I would recommend the movie to any fellow-movie-buff.
Everyone, by now, knows that the movie is about Earthlings trying to infiltrate the Na’vi – a blue-skinned alien species – so that they may obtain the unobtainium which is available in plenty on this alien planet and which is desperately needed by the dying planet of the humans. So ex-marine Jake Sully is given a Na’vi avatar and sent off to their astonishingly beautiful planet to learn what he can so that the knowledge can be used to get to the unobtainium. That being the premise on which the film unravels, the viewer spends the first half of the film expected to marvel at the flora, fauna and Na’vis on the planet. It gets boring pretty quickly. There is a surprising lack of characterizing in the film – so that the main actors are no more than clichéd stereotypes. I can see how this might have helped the good-vanquishes-evil kind of story-telling philosophy that works for any good myth or fable where the characters end up representing certain qualities that we all aspire to. In this particular case, that did not happen. I wanted to see more flesh, figuratively speaking, on the characters. Instead Sully is the intrepid warrior who is child-like in his simplicity; the girl is beautiful and innocent and trusting; the scientist understands the beauty of this alien world and wishes to preserve it, realizing we can learn from it; the”colonel” is a trigger-happy moron (which is the only okay characterization as far as I am concerned coz there is nothing so stupid as the chest-thumping-aggro-male) and so on. Surely, even sci-fi benefits from the eccentricity and individuality of its characters?
In the process of being accepted into the fold, Sully predictably aces the tests (the most important one being akin to taming the bucking bronc) and falls in love with the chief’s daughter.
The second half gets far better however as the climactic war between the humans and the Na’vis unfolds. The central philosophy of the Na’vis, which is that we are all part of the system on our planet and NOT creatures meant to rule it has been laid out earlier. As far back as in Asimov’s Foundation, humans ultimately learn to live as part of Gaia (a Greek name for Earth) so that all their actions enhance HER well-being. The emotional parts in the film came from these references – that the colonel and his army would kill their “own mother”, that you are automatically an enemy if you are sitting on "shit" that other people want (America in Iraq), the colonel swearing to “fight terror with terror” after initiatinganall-out invasion on another race...etc.
The war scene is something else and deserves every bit of the praise being heaped on the film. I was watching the whole thing literally open-mouthed. The lithe blue aliens with their unsophisticated weaponry against the ultra-sophisticated army of humans proves to be a visual treat. And when the underdogs win in the most unexpected ways, you can’t help but cheer them. So, you leave the show feeling that it was money well spent.
Now if only Hollywood’s sympathy for aliens could be reflected in their country’s foreign policy towards the non-white countries…….sigh!
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